Thursday, December 30, 2004

To Those Searchers

To those who landed on this blog by searching for "when do lentils go bad" and "naked women in nylon stockings" . . . how disappointed you must have been when you clicked on the link to me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I've Lost Track of Time

I'm not even sure what the date is today. I've been spending this week catching up on the busy-work, the stupid, redundant paperwork which is required by the school district for my schooling-at-home kids. I've always hated worksheets and paperwork for the sake of paperwork, so at first, I thought I had figured out a way around it. Then the requirements were clarified for me. So this week, I recreated a log book documenting our lesson times. Today, I spent most of the day writing up an individualized academic plan.

I only wish I were getting graded, because I'm pretty sure I'd get at least a B+. Although my assignment is overdue, so I'd probably fail it altogether. At least it's finished.

DaycareKid was here on Monday and Tuesday, but right before lunch-time on Tuesday, he suddenly started crying. He ate lunch, then took a nap and woke up crying. He cried through his diaper change, cried while I put on his shoes, cried when I gave him a snack, cried while he watched a video and cried while he waited for his mom to pick him up. He was feverish and didn't stop crying until he conked out on the couch again at 4:30 p.m. His mom came a short time later. Today, he was supposed to come over, but she stayed home with him. Poor sick kiddo. I just hope he didn't share his germs!

This morning, even though DaycareKid didn't come over, I still had to get up and shower early because I had to take one of our kitties--Roy--to the vet's office to get spayed. (Yes, Roy is a girl.) I dropped off the kitty and was home before anyone in my house was awake.

Last night, I saw Closer again. I wanted to see it as soon as it ended the first time around. This time, wouldn't you know it, a woman brought her TWO YEAR OLD child to the 9:10 p.m. showing. She should thank her lucky stars that she chose to sit on the opposite side of the theater with her child, because I would not have been very polite when I expressed my annoyance at the presence of a toddler at an R-rated movie which is so completely not appropriate for a two year old. During the movie, the little guy was wandering around near the screen. (Children at movies not meant for them is my pet peeve. One of my pet peeves. The only one I can think of now, if you don't count the horror I have developed over the fact that Barney the purple dinosaur has no elbows. I've been pondering the Barney irritation factor for quite some time and finally decided it's the elbow thing that drives people crazy, even when they can't quite put their finger on it.)

This time, two clearly dim women left during the pivotal scene in the movie. They returned about ten minutes later. What is wrong with people? My pleasure at immersing myself into a movie is marred by the stupidity of my fellow movie-goers. I mean, did they think this was "Meet The Fockers"? Seriously.


This afternoon, Babygirl and I went to Target to buy more razor blades on clearance for $4.54 per box. I discovered this price last night when I bought razors before the movie--the regular price is $18.19. Babygirl loves shopping, but we ran into a friend from the pool who dared to greet Babygirl with a touch. Babygirl was not amused and demanded to be picked up from the shopping cart. When we walked away after a short chat, Babygirl helped me push the cart, which involved her arms completely stretched overhead so her hands could grip the handle of the cart. She said, "I am a good helper!"

And she is. She sang "Happy Birthday to You" and "I love you, you love me . . ." all the way home and I considered briefly freeze-drying her at her current age and then I remembered how she screams when I shampoo her hair and how she follows me into the bathroom and how she freaks out when nice people greet us in Target and her adorability factor slipped down a couple of notches.

But she still is so sweet that my teeth ache just thinking of her.

[By the way, I live in the state of Washington where we still don't know exactly who our next governor will be. There have been two recounts and frankly, I say the best two out of three should win. (The Republican won the first two counts, then lost in the final hand recount by a few votes.) Or just flip a coin. Or play paper-rock-scissors. It would be just as valid a result.]

Monday, December 27, 2004


Babygirl did not want to nap today. At the very last second, she found YoungestBoy's giant, green Hulk Hands and she was attempting to bonk DaycareKid on the head with them. I finally picked her up and carried her stiff, resisting little body to bed where she shrieked and cried until I threatened to put her in her own crib.

Then she was glad to be snuggled next to me. Still, it took her an hour to fall asleep. I fell asleep, too, then. The problem with a lovely nap mid-day is that I can't wake up. When I do wake up, I can't get out of bed. And I really, really want to because I want to be awake in my house while she is not. Awake, that is.

I did manage to roll out of the bed and when I came downstairs, it was as if spring had arrived. The sun is shining brightly and the kitchen sinks are empty. The dishwasher is stil warm. And my husband is gone. It's his day off, but apparently he's tending to a church crisis of some sort, so he cleaned the kitchen and went to work.

And here I am, blinking in the sunshine. I know winter just started, but spring will be here in approximately twenty minutes. That's just how it works around here. I even saw some bulbs peeking up from their pot on the porch. I really appreciate living in the Northwest after living in northern Michigan for four years. One year, we didn't see grass (because the snow didn't melt) from October to March. That is just too long to live in a winter wonderland.

Oh, I hear Babygirl's footsteps. Time to go.

My Eye is On Fire!

Yesterday morning, Babygirl stood on the bathroom counter, chattering away, while I was blearily getting ready. After I shower, I follow the same routine each morning. First, put in contact lenses. Second, brush teeth. Third, put on deodorant. I don't think. I just keep moving. (Usually because I am late.)

Yesterday morning, apparently Babygirl distracted me (I like to blame other people for my mistakes) and I grabbed the wrong bottle of contact lense solution, the one with bold yellow print that says, "DO NOT PLACE DIRECTLY IN EYE." Then, I rinsed my lens with it and placed it directly in my eye, at which point my eye spontaneously combusted and I had to pry it open to remove the on-fire lens. Babygirl said, "What happened?"

I was holding my eye open with one hand and frantically splashing water onto it with the other. Babygirl repeated, "What happened?"

I know I said you could recognize me by the circles under my eyes and the Babygirl with a finger plugged into her nose, but as it turns out, you would have spotted me if you just looked for the woman wearing glasses over one flaming red eye.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Narcolepsy (or the Post-Christmas Doze)

My husband said from the comfort of the recliner, "I feel like when you're coming out of anesthesia, and you can't quite wake up. . . " That's how we are, today, my husband and me. Wherever we land, we doze. I have an uncle who suffers from narcolepsy, and today, I feel greater sympathy for him than ever.

My mom didn't sleep at all last night. She always waits until the last minute, then drags through each holiday in a stupor.

Last night, I made it to bed at 1:00 a.m. At 1:30 a.m., I heard a slamming door and my husband said, "Is that the kids?" and I went downstairs to deliver a stern warning about staying in bed. TwinBoyB couldn't sleep, had a bad dream, didn't know what to do with himself. I said, "I don't care if you sleep at all. Just don't get out of that bed!"

I told them all last night that they were not allowed out of their rooms before 7:00 a.m. At 7:00 a.m., I heard them spring out of their rooms. They unloaded their stockings and I headed for the shower.

By 9:00 a.m., I had a coffee cake baking in the oven and we started opening gifts. By 9:30 a.m., it was all over but the clean-up. My mom arrived at 10:00 a.m. for brunch--which we didn't eat until an hour later. Babygirl was absolutely entertaining and happy--she ran, literally, back and forth, laughing her sweet head off.

The twins looked very teenage-like today. They received personal CD players and all day long, they've either had headphones on, listening to music, or headphones attached to their new GameBoys.

When I put Babygirl to sleep on my bed, I fell asleep, too, though I tried to rouse myself to get the ever important "Time to Myself." Alas, it was not to be, and as the day wore on, I grew more and more impatient with everyone. I need solitude, even on busy holidays. By the time Babygirl and I went to her room tonight for the bedtime routine, I was drowsy and crabby.

When we turned on the television (she usually watches a video before bed), a Lawrence Welk Christmas special was on, featuring old clips from decades gone by. Babygirl sat mesmerized, watching kids with wacky haircuts and 1970s fashions. I was utterly amused by a 14-year old girl who rolled her eyes when she was introduced by her dad. She marched over to the piano and plunked out her part of the family song.

Then, Babygirl watched Barney while I kept falling unconscious in the gliding rocker. When I finally left the room and entered my own room, I saw my husband, stretched out diagonally on the bed, face down. If I didn't know better, I might have checked him for a pulse.

We are wiped out. And tomorrow, he has to preach again because it's Sunday. I'm pretty much churched-out, but we'll be there, right in the front row. You'll recognize me by the Babygirl on my lap. She'll have one finger stuck deep into her right nostril. And I'll have circles under my eyes.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve

Tonight, we had our first annual Nachos for Christmas Eve Dinner. It was a stroke of pure genius, I think. My husband is not here for Christmas Eve dinner and since I grew up and don't have to shuttle between my divorced parents' households anymore, I celebrate Christmas with my loud little family on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is the time we go to church, to pause for a split second to remember Jesus' birthday. And there are candles and actual fire and the potential for singed hair and burnt fingers, so it's also a thrill. And who has time for a fancy dinner? Thus, Nachos for Christmas Eve dinner.

The boys were in our church's first pageant tonight. TwinBoyA was a King, dressed in shimmmery silver and a black turban and brand new black Nikes. TwinBoyB was the head shepherd and he twirled his staff as he sat on the steps, completely ignoring the restless toddlers and preschoolers dressed as sheep--even though DaycareKid, dressed somehow appropriately as a black sheep, was careening around the stage, while the pacifier-sucking Baby Jesus slept in the arms of his teenage "Mother" Mary.

YoungestBoy was a shepherd, too. When we arrived, the racks of costumes sat waiting for the children to find their own costumes. Each costume hung on a hanger with the child's name attached. Except YoungestBoy said, "Mine is just in a bag on the hanger." I questioned him and he explained that he thought the leader told him to put it all in the bag. So, his costume was bunched into a wrinkled ball in a plastic bag, hung on his hanger. He looked cute anyway.

Babygirl watched all this from close proximity to me. She hovers around me as if she is a planet, held into place by some maternal gravity. At one point, she did ask to wear a sheep's costume, so I pulled the fleece over her head and gave her a sheep hat, but very soon, she was done.

I sat in the front, off-stage, and at the appropriate time, sent two angels out to stand by "Mary" and "Joseph." Then I tiptoed into the sanctuary to watch the rest of the pageant. There were no speaking parts, only narration and Christmas carols. When the children finished, my husband preached a short sermon and he did a fine job. I hardly ever hear his sermons and I always remember again what a good speaker he is.

Then the end of the sermon came and it was time to light candles and sing "Silent Night." YoungestBoy was next to me and during the second verse of "Silent Night" I looked down to see him wiggling the little round cardboard paper thingy up his candle, nearly into the flame. I snatched that paper out of his hand and said, "NO!" I thought for sure that it was actually on fire and that I'd have to use my superpowers to quench the flames, but it was not. But it was close! I sternly told him to leave the paper-thingy alone--it's meant to catch dripping wax.

And so we left with our eyebrows intact, no burns, no scorched hair.

The sight of the baby actress (who played Baby Jesus) in her father's arms next to me, illuminated by candlelight brought tears to my eyes. Since I've become a mother, Christmas and the story of the Baby with His destiny fills my heart with such emotion. I think of the gift of His birth and of the gift of His death, and it is almost too much for me . . . because His mother had to hold him so gently, so loosely, and it must have broken her heart. And all that reminds me that life is a tentative gift, that babies are held in our arms for such a brief, sweet while and then the current of life sweeps them away.

The twins were in bed when I returned downstairs at 8:40 p.m. after putting Babygirl to bed. They are trying valiantly to fall asleep, even though normally they are still chatting at 10:30 p.m. YoungestBoy watched a Christmas special until 9:30 p.m. and now that they are all in bed, I'll begin the wrapping festivities. My husband is resting--he has to go back and do another Christmas Eve service, starting at 11 p.m. Some years I actually manage to attend that service--I always really enjoy the stillness, the late hour, the candlelight--but tonight I will be home, preparing for tomorrow morning.

And another year will draw to a close and I will wonder how that's possible when it seems that we just woke up in 2004.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Blue Christmas

It's that time of year when you are supposed to be cheerily shopping and eating and singing songs about the Babe born so many years ago. Hallelujah, hallelujah! The shepherds of long ago worshipped in awe, the kings brought gifts to the newborn King the angels sang.

And we pause to remember. The children don halos and angel wings and shepherd's garb and three bigger boys dress like kings. A real baby plays Baby Jesus, though the baby is a girl and she has red hair, when she is swaddled, all you see is her baby lips and closed eyes and fingers at rest, sticking up from the blankets. We sing familiar songs and light candles and feel warm indoors though it's cold outside.

But my heart is heavy tonight, despite the holly-jolly season. A Christmas newsletter came today from my midwife, the one who attended my birth with Babygirl over two years ago. I was so excited to open it--last year at this time, her Christmas newsletter showed pictures of her, pregnant pictures! She has four girls, the youngest who is about 9, and this pregnancy was a surprise to me. I'm not sure if it was a surprise to her, too, but she is my age and her oldest girl is 17.

Her due date was in February and I waited and wondered. Did she have a boy? A girl? So, I happily opened the envelope to discover the news. The first thing I saw was the family picture of her, her husband and her four girls. No baby. Puzzled, I turned to the letter. Her baby, a girl, died prenatally two weeks before her due date, probably from complications of Down's Syndrome.


And an email came today, an update to a prayer request from yesterday. The subject of the prayer request, a two year old girl who'd had a transplant, had died.

Tonight, the church pianist mentioned that her mother is doing very poorly. She's probably in her last days.

Monday, my husband performed a funeral.

Tuesday, someone else from church died.

I truly believe that life doesn't end on this planet. I believe Baby Jesus came so that we would live happily ever after, not necessarily here in this lifetime, but ever after. But for now, hearts break and sorrow falls like snow.

Final, Last-Minute Shopping (Ha ha ha)

This morning I did not have to get up and be ready by 7:15 a.m. because my DaycareKid's mom has the day off. When my husband nudged me at 7:18 a.m. and asked if I wanted to shower before Babygirl awoke, I mumbled, "No." And that's how I ended up half-asleep in bed until 8:15 a.m. when Babygirl called out.

When I got her up, I decided I'd take the kids and do the grocery store run I didn't manage last night because the movie I saw ("Ray") went on and on and on and on and by then the grocery store was closed.

By 10:30 a.m., I was finally showered and ready. Babygirl was dressed with her jacket and shoes on and the phone rang. While I was on the phone, cutting out a coupon for ham, Babygirl came running through the kitchen saying, "I NEED TO PEE!" I could see that she already had peed, judging from the looks of her pants. She rarely has accidents, but when a mom is trying go move the troops out the door, these things happen.

By the time I finished my phone call, changed her clothes, folded a load of laundry, put laundry into the dryer, and fed and watered the cats, it was 11:00 a.m. So much for my quick, first-thing-in-the-morning grocery run. I'd also decided we should buy the twins new shoes since their old shoes are so raggedy.

First, the bank.
Second, the shoe store. We discovered the boys are now wearing men's shoes, not boys' shoes. We end up with more expensive shoes than I had hoped for--my boys shoes cost more than I'd ever spend on my own shoes. The experience frustrated me because all the kids kept wandering away from me while I contemplated sizes and prices. Then a helpful sales associate came to help, but freaked out Babygirl (she is generally afraid of people), so then I had to hold Babygirl as I circled the shelves full of shoes. When we left, Babygirl insisted on carrying the bag, which was too heavy for her to lift, so she cried.

She cried the "I need a nap very soon" cry and I aborted my attempt to grocery shop with four children. Instead, we went to a drive-thru and got lunch and came home.

So, I still have some final shopping to do tonight, right after the Christmas pageant practice.

As I sat here typing, YoungestBoy strolled by and said, "Hey, Mom." I said, "Yes?" He said, "I found a dime in my underpants." I said, "You did, huh?" He said, "Yes, and now it smells like my butt."

I never ever thought I'd tell a child to go wash a dime with soap, but I did.

Having kids is nothing like I imagined. Now you know why your mother told you to never put coins in your mouth.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Guy Down the Street

Early last night, while I was spinning around in the kitchen trying to get dinner prepared, the phone rang.

The woman identified herself, "Hi, I'm Military Wife's mom." I caught my breath. Her son-in-law, the Military Guy Down the Street, is stationed in Mosul. The woman hurried on to say that her daughter, Military Wife (also a West Point educated soldier herself) was in the hospital with an infection, probably caused by the intravenous line she had during childbirth a month or so ago. She needs continuous antibiotics for a few days to combat the infection.

The woman flew out to care for the month old grandson while Military Mom is in the hospital.

And, she said, Military Guy called yesterday and he's fine.

Then I breathed again. He's fine. He wasn't killed in the attack on the mess tent in Mosul. What a relief to all of us who know this brave little military family.

And yet, someone got a phone call yesterday with horrible news, with the worst ever news. And for those people, my heart aches. It's odd to feel relief that it was no one we know, yet sorrow for those we didn't know.

Last night, while my husband was visiting Military Mom in the hospital, my phone rang again. This time, a church man called to let me know that another church man had died a few minutes earlier. My husband had seen the dying man that morning and told me he thought he didn't have much longer to live. The breathing pattern of a dying person is distinctive and over the years, my husband has become familiar with that labored breathing.

Death doesn't take a holiday. All the more reason to hold each other tight and thank God for another day.

C is for Cookie

My 6 year old son said after dinner, "Mom, can I have some dessert?"

I said, "Like what?"

He said, "It starts with C and ends with Ookie."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

My Hearty Pirate Yell

Christmas is coming and I've reached the stage of "in a week, this will all be over." That always comforts me. I think I'm done shopping. I sort of have Christmas dinner planned. I probably have to go buy more things to stuff in stockings, but all in all, I'm ready. I hope. My Christmas tree looks more and more ragged as the days go by, thanks to the cats and the toddlers.

I feel the burden of making this The Best Christmas Ever for my children. I want their eyes to shine, I want them to smile and laugh, I want them to remember forever what a great Christmas this was. That's no easy feat. It's so much more difficult being a mother than I ever imagined. I didn't really see past the fog of having a baby to cuddle when I dreamed of motherhood. I didn't see this distant Christmas when the entire event depended on me.

Today, I rounded up the twins and we did a music lesson, which involved listening to a few songs and using our hands to beat out the rhythm. Babygirl and DaycareKid sat right on the floor with us, slapping their knees in glee. When we finished that, we moved on to a craft--creating igloos from sugar cubes and royal icing. The igloos are half-finished now. They have to dry so the boys can finish constructing the walls without collapsing them.

I left the boys sitting at the table, frosting and sugar cubes all around, while I went upstairs to put the babies to bed. Babygirl has been falling asleep in fifteen minutes or less these days, even though she cries when I tell her we're going to sleep. Today, just as she was settling down, one of my boys knocked at the door. TwinBoyA said, "The neighbor boys are here." I said, "Tell them to go home."

Just as Babygirl was settling down a few minutes later, another knock at the door. This time it was YoungestBoy, "Mom, can the neighbor boys stay?" I said, "Yes, but they have to be very, very quiet."

Then, a while later, just as Babygirl was settling down, another knock at the door. YoungestBoy again, reporting, "Mom, I was putting frosting around my igloo for snow and it collapsed." I told him to fix it.

Then, just as Babygirl was settling down again, another knock at the door. This time it was the neighbor boy. "Mrs. X, my mom is here with something for you." I said, "Tell her I can't come downstairs. I am trying to get the baby to sleep."

As Babygirl finally settled down, I thought about how rude that was of me. But I didn't want to disrupt the nap any more than it had already been disrupted.

Still, Babygirl wouldn't settle down. Finally, I said, "Babygirl! GO TO SLEEP!" And then I gave a hearty pirate yell, "ARRRRRRG!"

Right after that, she went to sleep. I'd been upstairs with her for almost an hour and a half.

When I came downstairs, I found a humongous platter of cookies, courtesy of the neighbor boys' mom. That explains why I have no appetite for dinner.

So, my house is a wreck. Half-built and much-licked sugarcube igloos sit on the kitchen table. But isn't it festive? I wonder what's for dinner? Yesterday, I completely forgot to feed YoungestBoy lunch and my husband told him at 3:00 p.m., "That's okay! Today is National Cookies for Lunch Day!"

Half an hour until dinner time. Where's Alice when I need her?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Who is that Woman?

Saturday, I found myself standing in a non-moving check-out line at Toys R Us. I always pick the line that doesn't move. It's a gift, really. The clerk had no gift receipt tape in her register.

So, as I stood, now blocked by the crowd, unable to move to another line, holding my two pathetic items (half-off), I stare off into the distance and realize that I am staring at myself in a mirrored window.

I hardly recognized myself. When did I turn into a middle-aged woman? How did my hair get so dark? Why do the circles under my eyes look so pronounced when I used concealer and foundation? Where are my lips? I remember when I was 28 and a friend of mine who was over forty told me that her lips had no color anymore. I thought that was odd, but here I am, on the brink of forty with colorless lips.

I'm beginning to see a disconnect between what I look like and how I feel. I don't feel like that pale, weary, frazzled woman. My grandmother is 98, almost 99 now and I'm guessing that she feels the same way. Our souls stay so much the same while our bodies morph into someone we don't recognize.

It's funny because I see my husband as the same man I first eyed nearly twenty years ago. Sometimes I consciously note his balding head and the gray on the sides and the wrinkled spot right above his ears, but mostly, I see him without really seeing his outer shell. He looks the same to me, even though he is twenty years older.

Madeline L'Engle points out that when we are in the midst of creating something, we become entirely unself-conscious, in the way that children are unself-conscious. Children do not ponder the shape of their noses or the symmetry of their faces. They have the gift of unawareness of their appearances. I wonder if the older you become, the more childlike and therefore, the more unself-conscious you can become.

With unself-consciousness comes freedom to really develop the person you are when your looks don't matter. . . which, if you are me, is most of the time.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Uncooked Turkey

The turkey didn't get cooked. I wonder if I can cook it tomorrow? It's been thawing since Tuesday morning. What do you think?

I finished addressing and stamping all the Christmas-letter envelopes. The letter is written, too, and pictures ready to insert. My husband is going to copy the letter for me at his office tomorrow--it's his day off, but he has a funeral to conduct, so he'll be working most of the day.

I am delighted that there is no school tomorrow, even though the kids will probably drive me crazy with their excess energy. At least I don't have to force them to do multiplication or writing!

Is it a bad sign that I am already looking forward to spring when we haven't even officially started winter yet?


This morning, we met my ex-stepmother for breakfast. My mother was also there. Divorce creates such odd situations, sometimes. My parents became friends after they were divorced. And then my stepmom and my mother became friends while my dad was married to my stepmom . . . and then they had something in common after he divorced my stepmom, too.

We used to have the weirdest Christmases. One Christmas, right after my parents' divorce, my dad brought his new wife to our house and my mother's boyfriend was there, too. At least that's how I remember it. We poor children practically huddled in the corners of the rooms, trying to make sense of the broken pieces of our lives. The next year was the Christmas when my dad thought it was a good idea to drive to Ohio. From Washington State. In a compact car with a faulty heating system. During the Christmas season . . . do you know how cold it is in Montana during December? Cold enough to freeze off your bippy, that's how cold!

Anyway. So, my ex-stepmom lives a few hours away. Last night, she made the drive and spent the night at my mom's house. As I started to say, we met them for breakfast. Even though my stepmother is extremely frugal, she likes to splurge on the rare occasion. Several years ago, she decided to take our little (big?) family out to breakfast for Christmas. So, we carry on this tradition.

Unfortunately, we were unable to linger over breakfast because the kids had to practice for the Christmas pageant. None of my kids has ever been in a Christmas production of any sort. This is the first year this particular church has had this type of event for many years. So, we walked over to the church and then stood around while children made a lot of noise and expended a lot of energy by fake karate chopping each other. (That would have been my son doing the chopping.)

Babygirl was especially pleased because the baby playing Jesus in the pageant was present. We held the baby several times--she's not quite three months old. Babygirl adores babies. It's a shame that she is my youngest child. Motherhood might have been so much easier if I'd had a girl first to help me mother!

At long last, the adults managed to organize and line up the children. I ended up being in charge of two "angels" and had to follow a script so I could send them onto the platform at the appropriate time. The pageant director had hoped Babygirl would be an angel, but Babygirl wanted only to sit on my lap.

When we returned home, I escaped as quickly as possible to go do some Christmas shopping. My quests were successful and I even managed a quick stop at the grocery store before returning home. The boys were eager to spend their allowance on an absolutely "necessary" GameCube cord, so I loaded up all the kids in The Deathtrap and we headed off to the video game store. We stopped first at Walgreens', where they purchased Christmas gifts for their dad. (Chocolate bars and a giant, really gigantic, Hershey's kiss.) We came home to find my husband making dinner--hot dogs and fries, my original plan. While we waited, I sat with Babygirl in the rocker and suddenly, I heard police sirens.

Way, way, way in the back of my mind, it registered. That is the sound of Santa Claus! Santa always comes through our neighborhoods in the days prior to Christmas. I startled Babygirl when I practically yelled to tell my husband, "Santa is coming! Get the boys!" Babygirl was shirtless, so I grabbed a jacket for her and carried her out to the driveway just as a police car with flashing lights passed in front of our house.

Slowly driving up our street was Santa's sleigh, decked out in Christmas lights. Santa and Mrs. Claus sat up high. On his right stood a snowman (someone in costume) and on the left was a reindeer (again, someone in costume). A bunch of teenage elves jumped from the sleigh, ran to their children and gave them gifts--matchbox cars, candy canes and for Babygirl, a stuffed bear.

After Santa came two fire engines, sirens blaring, lights flashing. Babygirl stared at this nighttime flashing parade with wide eyes. When we went back inside, she said, "Santa Claus! Scary!" The rest of the evening, she said with wonder, "Santa Claus is scary."

After I put her to bed and finished writing my Christmas letter, I went to a movie. Some years I attempt to see all the films nominated for Academy Awards (and/or the Golden Globes). This year, I think I might actually be able to achieve that goal. I saw "Closer" tonight in a theater that was fairly full. The couple right in front of me--a baldish man and a blond woman--were nuzzling each other, giggling and rubbing noses. I thought to myself, "Definitely not married." To my right, the girl kept laughing inappropriately during somber, wrenching scenes. It reminded me of junior high kids who laugh during certain parts of biology class because they are so uncomfortable. An older couple came in at the last minute and next to the Nuzzlers. They smelled like an old couch, like one you might find in Goodwill.

At a particularly intense part of the movie, Gramps got up and I thought, "I can't believe he's leaving during this part of the movie, this most important part!" And then he walked two steps down and said in a loud voice right into the faces of two young women, "You are very rude to talk during a movie!"

Wow. Good for him.

It's part midnight now and my stagecoach has turned back into a pumpkin. Tomorrow I am making a full turkey dinner with my unexpectedly thawed turkey. It's always an interesting proposition to cook while at church, but hopefully I will get up early in the morning and become Martha Stewart.

Or not.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Christmas Letter

I've been composing my annual Christmas letter. I present, the rough draft of my first paragraph:

"I don't know about you, but I'm in some kind of time warp. Wasn't it just Christmas ten minutes ago? Didn't we just pack away the lights, shove the ornaments into a box and celebrate the New Year? I'm mixed up, a hybrid of Rumplestiltskin and Rapunzel (growing my hair rope-long again so I can dangle it out the castle window as a means of escape). My scheme is not working, though. I just wake up every morning, twenty years old with an unruly tangle of hair on my head and kids underfoot, no Fairy Godmother in sight."

It's not beginning to look a lot like Christmas here. Today, while I shopped, the parking lots were jammed with cars, but the skies were blue, the sun shone in my eyes and no one wore a jacket. Mt. Rainier was "out," looking postcard perfect. When I returned home, I noticed bulbs beginning to grow in a pot on my front porch.

It's the most wonderful time of the year, though, the time when the school schedule relaxes and I don't have to harass anyone about homework or pack any lunches.

I do, however, have to finish that Christmas letter tonight or the line about "wasn't Christmas just ten minutes ago" won't make any sense . . . when the letters arrive after Christmas! I'm blaming the time warp.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The End

So, I'm sitting here at the computer at 11:00 p.m., checking email one last obsessive time before bed. Ah, peace and quiet, just the television news to keep me company.

And one of my boys comes out of his room (adjacent to the family room where I sit). I say, "CLOSE THE DOOR! THE CATS WILL GET OUT!" And he quietly informs me that the toilet has overflowed.

I rush in to find a gigantic puddle of water in the bathroom, laundry room and main room. I grab towels from the ever-present laundry pile and begin to soak up the water. I flush the toilet and work the plunger and think horrible Non-Mother of the Year thoughts like, "My children are so stupid!" But what I say is, "Please! Please! I am begging you: FLUSH THE TOILET WHEN YOU FINISH!"

Here's the recurring problem. My boys do not flush. Their (a-hem) waste products congeal in the toilet, forming a water-tight seal. The next person who unsuspectingly pees in that toilet (in this case, me) and then properly flushes it ends up causing a flood because the dam in the toilet is now impassable.

So, technically, I made the toilet overflow when I flushed after using the toilet and left without watching the disgusting contents of the toilet disappear. I never would have guessed how much poop is involved in motherhood.

I thought about forbidding them from using the toilet. Yeah, like that would work.

The worst part? We are low on toilet paper and earlier (one of about five times one of the boys came out of his room) one of them went upstairs to retrieve a roll. That roll--largely unused--was sitting on the flooded bathroom floor, completely ruined.

It's the little things that annoy me.

TwinBoyA's history journal was sitting on the floor, under the computer desk. It's now contaminated with poopy water. Very lovely. I just shake my head.

The boys tried to talk to me during my sopping frenzy and I said in a firm voice, "DO. NOT. TALK. TO. ME." So they talked to each other, each blaming the other for not flushing, each denying that he did not flush.

They are still awake. It's 11:30 p.m. In the morning, when they wake up, they will be tired and grumpy and then we'll have to work on composition--their worst subject, God's mean joke on me. Today, they were so difficult to work with that finally, I just said, "Fine," and walked out of the house. I went and sat in the van for about five minutes. (Babygirl and DaycareKid didn't even realize I was missing.) When I returned, I calmly replaced all the school books in the school cabinet and didn't mention another word about school. They said, "Why are you mad?" I said, "I'm not mad. I'm just finished working with people who don't want to work with me. But don't worry. I'll be here all week next week and you can do your work then." (Next week is supposed to be the first week of Christmas break.)

Amazingly enough, they finished their work.

What is getting me through this week are the Crosswicks Journals by Madeline L'Engle. I am on the second volume called "The Summer of the Great-Grandmother". As I read them, I think about all the people I know who must read these books.

And now, I have to go to bed so I can do this all again tomorrow. I just hope that tomorrow the toilet doesn't overflow and that no one sneezes on me. And I hope that I win the lottery, even though I don't play, and that Oprah calls and offers me a makeover.

A girl has to have a dream.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Okay, then

When I came downstairs this morning, crabby and bleary-eyed, I found the living room lights on. On the kitchen table sat two syrupy plates and on the counter was a thawing box of waffles, and open peanut butter jar and the almost-empty syrup bottle. Clues.

I am always the first person up in our house--except on Saturdays when cartoons beckon and the kids don't want to waste a second of their day-off sleeping. So, what did this mean: the lights, the limp waffles, the sticky plates?

One of the twins woke up at 5:00 a.m. (or 6:00 a.m., it depends who you ask) and couldn't sleep, so he woke up his brother and they had breakfast. Then they played their Gameboys. Normally, I have to coax them out of bed at 8:30 a.m., sometimes 9:00 a.m.

When I walked into the laundry room to start my first load of the day, I found my gigantic freezer standing with its door open, counteracting the furnace. The boys sneaked freezer-pops last night and didn't push the door closed behind them. A puddle had already formed on the floor and the turkey I had stashed for Christmas dinner was already mushy.

That's why there is a chicken in the crockpot. That's why we're having turkey on Sunday night. That's why I have a plastic container full of freshly cooked chicken tenders. That's why I'm defrosting my freezer--with its lentils and oats now utterly unfrozen and destined for the trash. Is it serendipity that my boys left the freezer open on the night before the night before trash-day? Indubitably.

I will start the new year with a cleaned out freezer, like it or not. Sometimes a girl just has to be forced into facing the drudgery.

Last night, I spent hours, literally hours, reading my blog. How self-centered, right? Well, my search was threefold:

1) Find blog entry which might be editable into something for the newspaper column try-out;
2) Get inspiration for annual Christmas newsletter;
3) Discover if I have, indeed, portrayed my husband as a "boob."

After reading from January to September, I must report that my search was two-thirds successful. I found several entries to edit, rearrange, fix and send off to the newspaper, there to be soundly ridiculed and rejected, just in time for my fortieth birthday. I also found very few references to my husband, and none that seemed to me to color him with a boobish brush. I do take my readers' comments seriously and was distressed to think that I had somehow inadvertently made my husband seem like a dorky character on a sitcom. But I don't see it, so I shall shake off the dismay and carry on.

Unfortunately, I did not find inspiration to write my annual Christmas letter, so this year--as I do every year--I will just write and hope for the best. People tell me throughout the year how much they look forward to reading my Christmas letter and for that reason, I worry that this year's letter will be a failure, a flop, a boring ramble through a dull year. I fear that people will roll their eyes and tear up my missive.

Besides that, procrastination cripples me.

Want to know what's funny? I was just interrupted and when I went through the laundry room, I noted that the top shelf of the freezer is still coated with a thick layer of ice, though the rest is puddlish and damp. I puzzled over it for a few seconds and then went DOH! I never unplugged the freezer when I began defrosting it this morning under duress.

I am so sequential that if I jump into the middle of a task, sometimes I forget the first step. For instance, if I were going to defrost the freezer without being prompted, I would first unplug it. Then I would open and unload it, then put towels to catch the drainage, etc.

Today, it was open, so I just put down towels to sop up the water. It never even occurred to me to unplug it. Who's the boob now?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Not the Meaning of Life

Sometimes I think I might be too sensitive to criticism. Okay, well maybe that was a teensy-tiny understatement. I'm hoping that when I turn forty (soon, very soon), I will care less what people think about me. I think it will be true because I care so much less now than I did when I was thirty. And when I was twenty and in college, I cared so much about what people thought that I never left my dorm without my hair flowing freely and make-up on my face.

The problem with being sensitive to what people think of you and keeping a journal on-line is that people read it. And then when they read it, they form opinions about you. And yours. Which is all good. Except for my teensy-tiny pathologically crippling problem about being oversensitive to criticism. Or even perceived criticism. As a part of this disorder, I remember the snotty comments more clearly than the kind ones.

For instance, remember that anonymous commenter took me to task for my tongue-in-cheek (mostly) movie review of Fahrenheit 9/11, here,, the one who then criticized my mothering skills because I mentioning that two of my children were adopted?

Or how about not long ago when another anonymous commenter who told me to "shut up for awhile!"?

Within the last few weeks, a fellow blogger actually pointedly removed me from her blogroll because of a link I have on my blogroll. Ouch. The reasoning behind her move doesn't make it hurt any less.

Well. It's certainly one thing to write about your life, but it's another to find yourself open to judgment and comments from people who have you all figured out, based on what you choose to write. This isn't fiction, people. I am writing directly from my guts. And when my guts get snickered at or critiqued--or even if I mistakenly, crazily assume that's what's happening--I tend to get a little defensive, I guess. So, you'll have to forgive me if I snap off your head or give you a dirty look or even just get a little wordy in my defenses. Clearly, it's a personal problem for which I should seek psychiatric care, but I just don't have time between all the demands of ironing pants and wiping the 2 year-old's runny nose.

Defensiveness is another of my issues. Yes, I'm just a barrel of laughs to actually live with. Ask my poor, male chauvinist husband. It's a good thing I'm so witty and cute or he'd toss me to the curb, probably. At least he should. If he could lift me.

Well. Anyway. I was going to write about The Meaning of Life, and I even got started and quoted a newspaper and opened up my Bible to Ecclesiastes, but then my head started to throb and I thought more about my overreaction to comments and criticisms and then I thought, WHO DO I THINK I AM, TACKLING THE SUBJECT OF THE MEANING OF LIFE? And so I went to watch Road Rules, Real World challenge for a few minutes until the panic passed.

But still. The Meaning of Life post will have to wait until I regain some equilibrium. Or until I figure out a way to calm my inner-crybaby.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Naked Truth

My husband has no pants to wear. Well, he has pants, but they are all members of various suits he owns. His khakis and his jeans have all disappeared into the black hole of laundry and this week, he's had to rely on suits and odd nylon exercise pants to get by. Fortunately, he spent a day at home while I was on death's door, and then a day in bed, so he suffered minimally.

But he said when he goes to work naked next week and people ask, what should he say? And I said, "Tell them your wife has been sick. No, tell them you are helpless and can't iron your own pants."

We are so traditional. He'd happily take them to the dry cleaners to be pressed but do you realize that would cost $4.00 per pair? I can iron six pairs--maybe more--in an hour, which gives us a rate of $24.00 per hour to have those pants pressed. I can't bear to pay for what I do so quickly. And no. He doesn't iron. He also doesn't cook, do laundry or breastfeed babies.

The sad and obvious fact is that I am ill-suited to house-wifery. Perhaps it's because a truly traditional housewife, in the 1950s sense of the word, would not be schooling her children at home. She would not be fooling around on the internet or watching cable television. She'd be wearing pearls and pumps and ironing her grateful husband's pants. And she'd do it while wearing perfectly applied lipstick.

I am a sorry excuse for a housewife. I admit it. Not only do I not keep up with the ironing, I also don't do a very good job keeping things spic and span. The other day I read an obituary (I always read them) in which a deceased woman was described: "she loved keeping an immaculate house for her husband." Oh dear. That will so NOT be in my obituary. Mine will read more like, "She read a lot and liked People magazine and wrote her own blog. She dusted as little as possible and often forgot to plan dinner."

It's not that I don't enjoy an immaculately kept home. Oh no, far from it. It's just that I live with these other people who are constantly undoing what I've done. They have no regard for tidy rooms and neat cupboards. They feel no compunction to pick up trash they might have dropped. They leave their shoes exactly wherever they take them off. Laundry never finds its way to the laundry room. They leave crumbs on the counters, grease on the stove, and a sticky trail wherever they go.

And I've tried to train them, teach them, encourage them. I have. And as a recovering perfectionist, I've decided to just surrender to the chaos rather than drive them all into therapy.

If I could stand it, I'd be like one of those people you see in shopping mall food courts--you know the ones with the rolling trashcan and the little spray bottle who wipe up after slobs who leave messes? But I don't want to spend my time following people around, straightening up and putting stuff away and wiping down the tables. It's hopeless and boring and repetitive. And did I mention repetitive?

A couple of days ago, I saw Dr. Phil's wife on his show. She's fifty, you know, and terminally cute and perky and well-groomed. And the whole show was about how she does it, how You, Too, Should Take Care of Yourself. Apparently, she is wholly devoted to remaining attractive for Dr. Phil--she uses a team of professionals, a skin-care regimen, an exercise regimen, all kinds of regimens, laser treatments, plus a nightly bath filled with expensive potions. Staying cute sounded like a full-time job to me, the kind of job a former cheerleader would sign up for. I was not a cheerleader.

I'm not that kind of a wife, either, one devoted to my looks and my body. My physical self hardly rates a thought, not to mention expensive cosmetic counter products. I haven't even had a haircut in fifteen months. I don't buy outfits and I never shop for shoes. My workout equipment is holding all the wrinkled pants my husband can't wear.

As I said, I am ill-suited to be a wife. And that's the naked truth. Just don't tell my husband.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Desperate Housewife

Teri Hatcher has no idea, really, what it means to be desperate.

Desperation is sleeping as late as possible, getting up to put on clothes, wrapping your hair into a ball on the top of your head, slapping on your glasses and crawling back into bed until the baby calls your name. Desperation is bacon and eggs for dinner. Desperation is a rainy, dark trip to Target to buy decongestant for the unable-to-breathe among us. Desperation is wearily staying up until the late, local news ends because sanity demands two hours alone, per day, without kids.

But the day is over. The plague has passed. Saturday! A Saturday which will not be followed by a Sunday involving company awaits me. Glory be.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Best of Blog Awards

The Best of Blog (BoB) Awards 2004 are here! Sponsored by WiredHub and, the awards seek to recognize the best personal blogs in our corner of the blogosphere. (No political blogs allowed!) Check it out. You might want to nominate a deserving blog for an award.

There are a bunch of categories. Wouldn't it be fun to nominate some of your friends? I did.

The Mean Substitute Teacher

YoungestBoy returned to school today after two days of being home (questionably) sick. He coughed all night, but played all day and on those kind of days, Mommie Dearest inside wants to shoo him out the door with wire coat hangers, but Glenda the Good Witch waves her magic wand instead and lets him stay home.

Anyway, after school, I said, "Hey, how was your day?"

And he said, "Oh! We had a substitute, the meanest substitute ever!"

"She was mean?" I said, "What did she do?"

He said, "Yes, she gave us second-grade work."

I said, "Like what?"

And he said, "She made us spell the word electrifying on our spelling test!"

I stopped. "She did?" I said, "Your words should have been fun, sun, run, at, be!"

He said, "Mom! I'm just kidding!" And then he grinned.

Drat. I fall for it every single time.

Kitchen Knives and Cheese Graters

I was a new bride, living in Connecticut. One day, a package arrived from my dad. In it, I found a spiffy set of kitchen knives and a cutlery block in which to store them. Those knives still live in my kitchen, silently begging for professional sharpening, yet still doing an admirable job of chopping and slicing. They do such a good job that I never give their adequacy a second thought.

That is, until the other day when I wrestled with my broken cheese-grater.

For some reason, I just can't justify a purchase for anything decent in my kitchen. My husband does not suffer from this problem and that explains our Juiceman Juicemaker and the George Foreman Grill. He's a sucker for infomercials and longs for one of those chicken rotisseries. We just don't have space for any more faddish appliances. Plus, I say, why spend money on something if what you already have is adequate?

Not that my cheese-grater is adequate. When I purchased it (to replace one that inexplicably disappeared about the same time a GameBoy and a cellphone vaporized from the premises), I thought it was Perfect. It unfolded into an upside down V--you could grate finely on one side and not-finely on the other.

Perfect. Until it broke. Now, the legs on the not-finely side are gone and the cheese-grater is crippled. You can't open it all the way and place it flat on your bowl. Nor can you prop it on a cutting board. To grate cheese requires a delicate, yet firm, grip, which often involves shredded skin and pinched fingers.

I need a new cheese-grater.

That's what I thought the other night while grating cheese. Then I remembered my dad and the knives. He gave me those knives because he really needed a decent set of knives in the kitchen. When he died, he was 47 and he'd never owned a really great set of kitchen knives. He did not want me to suffer the way he did.

Yet I do suffer. Exactly in the same way he did. What do you bet I find a really fabulous, expensive, glorious cheese-grater--to give to my daughter as a wedding gift, to prevent her from shredding her fingers and otherwise enduring the agony of a lifetime of living with a worthless, broken cheese-grater?

Better yet, maybe for my 40th birthday--coming soon--I'll splurge and buy myself the best cheese-grater money can buy. Life is too short to bleed on dairy products.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

What's Worse Than Throwing Up?

I'll tell you what's worse than throwing up. Hearing your husband throw up throughout the night. Realizing at 7:00 a.m. that your two-year old is going to spend the day vomiting. Holding your inconsolable two-year old as she pukes into a stainless steel bowl. Spending a whole head-throbbing day comforting your two-year old as she cries, "My tummy hurts," and knowing you can't do a thing about it.

That's what's worse than having a stomach virus--spending a day with those you love while they suffer from the stomach virus.

Thank God today is over.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Death Warmed Over

The last time it happened, I was in 7th grade. This afternoon while I was curled under a layer of covers, shivering, woozy, I did the math. That was about 26 years ago.

That time, I'd had porkchops and rice--that casserole with cream of mushroom soup. This time, I have kids. Last time, I was secretly thrilled that my brown, suede-ish pants were loose when I returned to school.

Even my pregnancies did not feature vomiting. I vomited delicately once during each pregnancy, once when I brushed my teeth a little too vigorously and once when I ate a deviled egg on an empty stomach.

But today. Oh, today I rolled out of my deathbed and stumbled to the bathroom and didn't even have enough time or warning to hold my hair back. I think I can still feel it in my nasal cavity.

But there is good news. First, my husband responded valiantly at 7:00 a.m. when I told him, "I have the stomach bug. You have to stay home today." He did a fine job watching kids all day (minus DaycareKid). Babygirl's loneliness for me drew her to my deathbed throughout the day, but she managed without me. Sort of.

The other good news is that last night was the Church Women's Fellowship Annual Salad Potluck and I ate a bit too much and then finished off that peanut butter pie last night. For once, my lack of self-control will have no consequence.

Unless you count the taste of . . . well, it wasn't as bad as porkchops, but I'll be steering clear of cabbage for awhile.

Monday, December 06, 2004


Tonight, at the annual Women's Fellowship Salad Potluck Christmas Program, I tried to listen, really. But I got distracted and found myself thinking about this really old woman I used to visit when I was in college.

I had volunteered to adopt a grandparent. I was assigned this woman named Annette, who had crazy gray hair and dentures that clacked together when she talked. She also made a bunch of weird food for us to eat each time, strange combinations like ice cream and Rice Krispies with peanut butter on apples. We sat at her tiny table and I told her stories about college, all about the boy I was obsessed with and she told me stories about teaching. She'd never married and never had children.

We visited every week for two years.

Several years after I graduated from college, I found myself back in that midwestern town and thought I'd drop in on my old adopted grandma. I knocked at her door, waited for an eternity for her to make her way through her tiny apartment and then the door swung open.

She stood and looked at me with a completely blank look on her face. I said, "Hi! It's me! Mel!" She had no idea who I was. I said, "I used to visit you every week when I went to college next door." She said, "Well, I can't really remember. Would you like to come in?"

I should have been thinking about Baby Jesus and about gifts we can give Him (our time, our money, our talent), but instead, I thought about Annette and how she didn't remember a second of our time together.

But I guess that wasn't really the point of it. I didn't realize it at the time. I was young and I attached significance to everything. Now I know that sometimes, a moment is just a moment and then it slips away. Some moments don't have a future. That's why you're supposed to notice them because you might only have that one chance.

Moments today: I came downstairs to find the kitties playing volleyball with the Christmas ornaments. One shattered. I found a headless Virgin Mary in the African nativity set and a Wise Man without a foot.

Babygirl absolutely refuses to wear a shirt. I hope this is not a sign that she will one day serve beer in a seedy bar with other topless waitresses.

YoungestBoy was coughing his head off tonight. This can only mean that we are now playing Ring Around the Virus and he'll now have a sloppy, mucusy cold. I hope that Babygirl doesn't come down with the Stomach Virus from Hell.

I shot a roll of film this week with my very old Nikon and nearly every picture had a line scratched through it. I have had this trouble off and on with this camera. It appears that something scratches the film as it forwards through the camera. At any rate, not a single picture turned out well enough to meet my standard for this year's Christmas Letter Picture. I might end up using one from this summer when we went to Mt. Rainier. It's getting more and more difficult to take pictures of all of the children at the same time.

I am post-party and found myself sort of immobilized today. I can't really think of what pressing matter needs my attention--though Christmas is coming, I have yet to compile my student records and academic plans for the twins, laundry never ends. I did so little today, especially since I gave the still-lethargic boys the day off. At least the peanut butter pie is gone burp and is no longer a distraction to me.

Thank you for your comments about your favorite posts here. I am taking all your comments to heart. I'll let you know what I come up with.

This and That

Babygirl is busy hacking up a furball. At least that's how it sounds. Yesterday, she said a few times, "My elbow hurts," and then she pointed to her neck, just below her ear. She hasn't had anatomy class yet, so we'll overlook this glaring physiological error.

The twins have moved from the "Mom, am I gonna die?" stage to the "Mom, I'm bored. When can we do something fun?" stage. TwinBoyB is pretty bummed that last night ended up being a vomit-fest instead of a funfest at their twin friends' house. They were supposed to spend the evening over there, but instead were quarantined in their room. TwinBoyA is still lethargic and has spoken less than fifty words today, which is proof of his illness. Normally, he is a non-stop talker.

I spent today doing as little as possible. It's amazing how quickly the house falls back into shambles. Tonight, the kids (those who are eating) are having left-overs. I have to go to the annual Christmas salad potluck for church women at 6 p.m. I will have to rush home afterwards because my husband has to go to a Christmas dinner, too, for a different organization.

Today, when I tricked Babygirl into napping, I fell into a deep sleep, too, and when I woke up and moved, just a little, she stirred. So I stayed still and slept during the whole naptime. Normally, during naptime, I slip out of bed as quickly as possible so I can have lunch, but today I was full of peanut butter pie and leftover stuffed mushrooms. Who needs lunch?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I'm No Florence Nightingale

First, the good news. I survived my dinner party (6 guests) and there is, indeed, leftover peanut butter cream pie. My house is clean, the dishes are washed, the floor is grime-free.

Now, the bad news. I lost all chance of winning The Mother of the Year award this afternoon when my twin boys said, "Mom, my stomach hurts," and I said, "Well, if you use the bathroom, be sure to wash thoroughly." And then, after they threw up, I threw up my hands and said, "DON'T TOUCH ME! DON'T COME INTO THE KITCHEN! DON'T BRING YOUR GERMS HERE!" I did not kneel next to them on the bathroom floor and mop their brows. I did not tenderly lead them to their beds. Their colorless lips did not faze me.

My husband said they will probably need therapy and they will tease me mercilessly when they are grown. Let's hope they find the humor in my pathetic, non-nurturing parenting style.

I washed my hands so many times that they are rough, like a fine-grade sandpaper. Between Babygirl's running nose and the boys' running to the bathroom, I can practically see the germs dancing closer to my delicate mucus membranes. Fortunately, YoungestBoy feels fine already. Meanwhile I am afraid to walk through the boys' room, to touch their doorknobs, to peek into their bathroom.

I had an out-of-body experience this afternoon while I was preparing for my company. I'd already prepared all the food (stuffed mushrooms, date-almond bacon wraps, potato casserole, peanut butter cream pie, pecan pie, chocolate cookies) and I was cleaning, somewhat obsessively. As I dumped crumbs from the toaster and cleaned the individual burners on the stove and washed behind the flour, sugar and tea canisters, I wondered why? Did I think my guests would notice the sugar crusted behind the canisters?

I don't spring clean, though I suppose I should. I company clean. I felt a little crazed while I did it, but I knew it had to be done.

And now, hooray, it's done. The flurry of preparations have left my house decorated and the Spode Christmas Tree china clean. The outside lights are on, the gigantic snowman waves from the front yard and we are ready. I only wish that Santa would actually bring presents so I wouldn't have to find a golden-egg laying goose to solve my money shortage.

Now. I'm eating pie and pretending it's not almost time to go to bed.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Day Before Company Arrives

Today is the day before the staff dinner here at my house.

That explains the following things.

Babygirl woke up with a runny nose, the kind that triumphs over the tissue box. Why? Of all days, today? My agenda included cleaning, laundry, food shopping, decorating, cooking . . . not nose-wiping.

While putting up decorations tonight, suddenly my husband realized that YoungestBoy was crying somewhere in the house. He said to the older boys, "Tell him to be quiet! The baby is sleeping!"

They couldn't find him, so my husband went upstairs. He immediately returned, saying, "He wants to talk to you." I abandoned the Christmas lights and went upstairs to find YoungestBoy with tears on his face, perched on the toilet. He said with true concern, "I just need to know. Is it normal for pee to come out of your b*tt?"

He's had an upset tummy today. Enough said. I did not laugh at his distress because I am a compassionate mother, a gentle mother. But, oh boy, that was funny.

About an hour later, I heard, "MOM!" Then again. "MOM!" Unmistakable voice of my angel, Babygirl. I trudged upstairs, abandoning the Christmas decorations yet again. Her light was on (she can reach the switch from her crib). She looked so cute with her hair all tousled. It was 9:24 p.m. She said, "I want to go downstairs." I told her it was still nighttime and I sat and rocked her for ten minutes. She asked again to go downstairs, but I reminded her again that it wasn't morning and put her to bed. She's been quiet ever since.

Please, God. Please. Ler her sleep all night.

A bit later, when I investigated an unplugged lamp, I found a spot of kitty piddle on my new carpet.

We got the Christmas tree up. For the first time ever--miracles never cease--my husband actually helped assemble it, so it went up fairly quickly. I was a Christmas tree purist in my pre-children days. We always had a real tree, and sometimes even a live tree which we planted in the yard after Christmas. All that ended the Christmas I got pregnant. I was seven months pregnant with YoungestBoy and I said, "No way am I going to put up a real tree this year." I remembered the year before when we dragged the tree--one we picked out and cut down ourselves--into the house. The melting snow dripped into my eyes, because I am always the lucky one to put it into the stand and to struggle to straighten it. The needles were sharp and disappeared into the carpet after Christmas, only to poke through our socks into our tender feet months later.

So, now we have a fake tree. I buy a Yankee candle for the scent and call it Christmas. Good enough.

Tomorrow, we'll stay home from church so Babygirl doesn't infect all the other babies in the nursery. I will be cooking most of the day and mopping for a little aerobic exercise amidst the calories.

Best of all, in twenty-four hours this will all be over. My house will be ready for Christmas and I will have leftover peanut butter pie. I hope.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Help Me Decide

I'm going to send a couple of 600-700 word articles to my local newspaper as an audition to become a guest columnist for a year. I thought I'd pick through my posts here first to see if anything grabs me.

Do you have a favorite post that you can imagine being published in a newspaper? I know. How self-centered of me to ask you to think about me, me, me, but do I ever ask anything of you? Other than chocolate and kind comments?

And cash?

Well. If you have a favorite post or topic, leave me a comment and let me know. Or email me. Or just send a message through mental telepathy or write it in the sky.

Thanks in advance.

(My personal favorite, I think is all about shopping for a miracle.)

Blog Name Change

When I started blogging, I didn't know much about the art of blogging. I picked the name of my blog out of the air, "Go Ahead: Read My Mind," which seemed to me to be the purpose of my blog. A group of us started blogs as a way to share what our lives were really like. It was just an experiment among friends. I figured it would be fairly short-lived. Go ahead, I thought, read my mind. Pretty dull, right?

While I was napping with Babygirl today, I thought of my blog and about the name I gave it. Not snappy or witty or cute. Just a run-of-the-mill name. And then the phrase "actual unretouched photo" popped into my head. That's it, I thought, half-asleep. Then I repeated it to myself so I would remember it.

So I changed my name. Not my name, but my blog's name. If you have me blog-rolled, you can change it, too, or not.

I think "Actual Unretouched Photo" describes what I attempt to do here. No airbrushing, no magic editing (very little editing of any kind, for that matter) . . . just an unglossy view of my life. For what it's worth.

Just so you know. Change is good.

Great Minds Think Alike (Or Wow, We've Been Married a Long Time)

The other night, my husband and I were watching television together. He was flipping through channels and paused on a public television station to watch John Denver sing. For a second, I forgot that John Denver had died and I thought to myself, I can never get over him divorcing Annie after he wrote that song about her.

And then my husband said out loud, "You know, I can never really forgive him for divorcing Annie. I mean, how do you write a song like that and then divorce her?"

Annie's Song
by John Denver

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come love me again

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again
(The title track from "Back Home Again" (1974).

John Denver was married to Anne in 1967. They had two children, Zachary and Anna Kate, before their divorce in 1983. Sixteen years of marriage. That's practically a lifetime in high-profile marriages, it seems.

For us, it's just the beginning. And I don't care that my husband can't write songs for me, as long as he keeps reading my mind.

You Know You Are Old If . . .

You know you are old if . . .

. . . you have ever looked at a movie star and thought, "Boy, I thought he was older than that. He looks old." And then you realize you are the same age.

. . . you have ever peered at yourself in the mirror and propped up your eyelids with your fingertips and wondered if you'd look permanently surprised if you had plastic surgery to remove the sag.

. . . you can remember where you were when Ronald Reagan was shot, when the Challenger space craft exploded and Mt. St. Helen's blew her top.

. . . you consider what it will be like at your own funeral.

. . . you used to watch Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.

. . . you pumped gasoline into your car that cost less than a dollar a gallon.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

When You Use Red Paint

A few years back, I painted my dingy kitchen bright--excruciatingly bright--white. Since then, I painted my family room with red stripes and most recently, I painted the living room bold orange-yellow. My poor husband. He's more of a beige kind of guy, but he humors me.

Well. I thought the kitchen wall that I see from the family room--the wall with the doorway to the dining/living room--ought to be red. And the wall opposite, just a small half-wall, really, which borders the family room also needed to be red. That wall was covered with baskets, but they all came down.

Guess how many coats of paint a shockingly white wall needs? One coat of primer. Three coats of red paint.

I am so sick of paint. But the walls look . . . vivid. No, really, they look great. If I were a good, industrious wife, I would spray all those baskets off and let them dry overnight. I just might do that. You never can tell, really.

It's December 1 and I don't have my Advent calendar hung. I'm late, late for a very important date!

My Break

I had a break. A break with reality, that is. The phone rang. A friend asked if I am in the mood to bake cookies. "Sure," I said, cautiously.

Then I agreed to bake 2 or 3 dozen cookies for a bake-sale Friday night.
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